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How to Retain Top Performing QAs in the Age of Disruption
By Ruslan Desyatnikov, Founder & CEO, QA Mentor
Losing a good QA tester is never a good piece of news. First, you’re saying goodbye to a high-performing individual and, second, it’s costly. The average cost of hiring a new employee is about $4,000 but the amount is actually higher if you include onboarding and training costs. On average, you should expect your testing engineer to remain with your company for three years – but even that requires a solid employee retention tactic.
QA jobs are becoming more sophisticated
While the DevOps methodology continues to disrupt the world of software, the roles of all actors – product managers, developers and QA testers – is following suit. In the climate of accelerated tempo and real-time communication, QA testers no longer fish for bugs and defects only once the application has been developed. Today, QAs are expected to participate the development process as it’s is being carried out.
This new development cycle depends on automation, AI and machine learning, creating QA tasks that are more sophisticated and demand a more creative skillset. But these changes are part of a broader transformation that’s affecting all market players.
Today’s workforce seeks purpose and chance to make an impact
Modern employees seek meaning in their work and an opportunity to make a difference (think about your recently hired intern) – they’re less motivated by the paycheck, corner office or the gold watch. Plus, the present entrepreneurial business environment spurred by the tech sector, requires employees to act with greater autonomy and accountability for their work.
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Before COVID-19 hit, QA testers were operating in favorable market conditions that offered an assortment of options beyond their regular employment. Employers had to sweeten their offers with incentives and training opportunities aside form attractive salary packages to hire and maintain grade A talent.
Leaders are facing pressure and uncertainty
Considering the transformational pressure on the business conditions, it was expectant that QAs were reexamining their own objectives within the new DevOps context. The pandemic is now altering these circumstances and it remains to be seen how the market conditions will change when the IT Industry emerges out of the slowdown.
I say all that to say this: enterprises now find themselves in an interesting, yet unpredictable juncture. Things are likely to change in the short term but once things resume their regular pace, they’ll be faced with the same conundrum as before: “How do we retain top performing QA testers?” The first step in answering this question is to find out why they quit in the first place.
Lack of opportunities to move up the ladder
DevOps methodology demands continuous training so QAs can keep pace with the disruptive technologies impacting development. Without the right training focused on automated tools, AI and machine learning, they’ll stay stuck as manual testers. Most testing professionals aim to become QA leads, managers or project coordinators, none of which is possible without meaningful learnings made possible by their managers. If they aren’t given enough room to grow, they’ll quit when a more enticing job offer comes along.
Ambitious employees eager to develop their problem-solving skills like to be challenged. Otherwise they’ll look for positions where their potential will be valued more. More and more employees approach work with a similar attitude because, as I’ve said it earlier in this piece, Millennials and younger workers don’t want to be another brick on the wall. They aspire to yielding influence and making an impactful contribution. Unfortunately, a lot of firms put testers on projects in which they’re expected to test the same software year after year. Although some testers are happy to do repetitive work, most will become jaded and cynical.
Today’s workforce seeks purpose and chance to make an impact
Many enterprises tend to keep testers working in the same positions as a way of dodging salary hikes that come with more senior roles. Unsurprisingly, this habit incites employees, especially good ones, to seek jobs with other companies in order to enter a higher income bracket. When firms don’t raise QAs’ salaries through predictable funnels – yearly evaluations, customer feedback and testing quality – they shouldn’t be shocked if they look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Tension within the DevOps team
Over the years, I’ve been a witness to all kinds of communication issues between testers and developers. While some friction is expected considering the high level of interdependence between members of the DevOps teams, too much of it is detrimental. The responsibility of QAs range from static code analysis to detailed unite tests assessment, which some developers may interpret as overstepping of testers’ boundaries. If the developers take these comments personally because of their predetermined ideas about testing, it affects team solidarity and slow down production. When the conflict escalates, it’s the job of managers to remind everyone about their individual roles within the team. If the roles have become too blurry, managers need to redefine them so that there’s less overlap between functions.
The sad truth is that many managers believe software testing is quick and easy. Some even think that it can be performed by anyone with basic typing skills, which is why they end up having unrealistic expectations. But it’s also true that when QA testers are asked to conduct a lot of tests under tight deadlines, they’ll feel stressed and the team will suffer from low morale. It’s normal to ask testers to clock in longer hours every now and then but when testers are overworked they’re rarely good at finding defects. So, besides the possibility of compromising the application with unchecked bugs, burnt out employees also become a flight risk.
Rising job complexities and managing a sophisticated software testing workforce amid the pandemic is a big set of challenges for any enterprise leader. Companies that are serious about retaining their top-performing employees will implement the right retention strategy even in these unpredictable times. They will continue to successfully manage opportunities, boredom, salary expectations, team dynamics and stress levels in a way that strengthens morale and delivers sustainable results.